By Nita Kapadia
As soon as we are born, we let out a cry to proclaim to the world the excellent condition of our lungs. So, what is this disciplined breathing? How does it help us?
According to Shri S. P. Nimbalkar, Pranayama is disciplined breathing and its aims are not only physical benefits but the desirable changes that take place in the mind. If practised in its true spirit, it reduces the fickleness of mind.
The best time for pranayama is the morning time before sunrise on an empty stomach, or 2 to 3 hrs after a light meal. One should start the learning of this system in summer or winter.
The average person person uses only 10% of his total lung capacity. Due to less supply of oxygen, the metabolism of the heart and brain cells suffer. The impurities of the blood increase and the lungs shrink and become hard.
As we breathe through the nose, we receive three things-air, oxygen and prana or life force. The first two go to the lungs, whilst the prana energy is drawn through the right and left nostrils to the base of the spine. This cosmic energy traveling through the positive and negative cables, unite in the root plexus at the base of the spine. From here, this high voltage current is distributed to the departments of waste disposal and sex. After this the combined energy goes up the spinal cord to various plexuses. Through the wonderful network of nerves starting from each plexus, the energy is distributed to the nervous system.
From this it is obvious that disciplined breathing helps keep our nerves stable. The active functioning state of our nervous system is what we call our mind. So, it follows that the mind becomes active or functional when the breathing is on and when the breathing is stable, the mind is calmed.
Through the practice of pranayama, the defects of the sense organs and mind are burnt. Through the Pranayama practices, the impurities within the body and mind are eliminated.
The pranayama is divided into four parts.
Poorak-disciplined, complete, proportionate and comfortable easy breathing in.
Rechaka-Disciplined, complete, proportionate and easy breathing out.
Abhyantar kumbhak-The air breathed in is held in the lungs for a proportionate period.
Shoonya Kumbhak-the breath held out after completion of rechak for a proportionate period.
The wonderful changes that take place in the body through proper and prolonged practice of pranayama are described in the last part of the second chapter of Hathapradeepika on pranayamas.
‘A slim body, serene face, clarity of voice, sparkling eyes, freedom from diseases, conservation of energy, kindling of the gastric fire and purification of the nerves are the symptoms of achievement arising out of the hath yoga, particularly, pranayama.’
A word of caution. It is best to learn pranayama from an expert. If practiced perfectly, diseases disappear, if practiced wrongly, it can in fact lead to disease.
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